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Chronic Renal Failure

Chronic Renal Failure

Chronic renal failure is a complicated health condition. The following HealthHearty article talks about the stages, causes, symptoms, and treatment applicable for this condition.
Bidisha Mukherjee
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2018
The other name for chronic renal failure is chronic kidney disease. It is a condition in which, the kidneys stop functioning properly. This disease develops over a period, which can vary from a few months to a few years. The main function of the kidneys is elimination of wastes and water from the body. When it fails to function normally, harmful wastes and water gets accumulated in the body. This gives rise to various other health disorders such as high blood pressure, anemia, bone disorders, etc.
The Stages
Based on the severity of the condition, there are 5 different stages. They are as follows:
Stage 1
In this stage, there is no significant damage done to the kidneys and they function almost normally. Here GFR value is more than 90% (GFR stands for glomerular filtration rate and is used to measure kidney functioning). The damage can be detected only through pathological tests.
Stage 2
The function of the kidneys is mildly affected and GFR lies between 60-89%. It can also be identified through blood tests, urine tests, and imaging studies.
Stage 3
It is a more serious condition in which, kidney function drops to a moderate level and GFR is around 30-59%.
Stage 4
Here, kidney function is severely affected and GFR is as low as 15-29%.
Stage 5
This is the end stage in which, total kidney failure occurs. Here GFR is hardly 15% or less.
Causes and Symptoms
There are several underlying health problems that can affect the functioning of the kidneys. People suffering from Type I or Type II diabetes are at a greater risk of getting this kidney disease. High blood pressure, enlarged prostate, kidney stones, kidney or bladder cancer, etc., can cause this kind of damage to the kidneys. Repeated kidney infection, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, hardening of the arteries, and side effects of medicines are the other causes of this failure condition.
Symptoms depend on the stages of the disease. In the first two stages, there are either no noticeable symptoms at all or they are mild. They start showing up when there is an irreversible form of damage to the kidneys. During stage 3 and 4, the kidney failure symptoms are moderate in nature. A few of them are swelling in hands and feet, low urine output, fatigue, lack of appetite, slow digestion, back pain, etc.
In stage 5, some more symptoms can be seen. They are: extremely low urine output or no urine at all, numbness in swollen hands and feet, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, itchy skin, bruises or bleeding, skin discoloration, feeling of thirst, sleeping problems, confusion, lack of alertness, etc.
Treatment
Unfortunately the chronic renal failure cannot be cured completely. The main aim of the treatment is to keep its symptoms in check and slow down the progression of the disease. For this reason, the underlying condition, responsible for the failure of the kidneys, is treated with proper medicines.
For instance, patients with high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels are given suitable medications to keep the condition in check. Swelling of the hands and feet occur due to fluid retention in the body. Diuretic medicines are given to control the fluid balance in the body. As patients of renal failure are susceptible to various bone diseases, supplements of calcium and vitamin D are prescribed to maintain the bone strength.
The medicines should be accompanied by a suitable diet. It plays a major role in reducing workload of the kidneys. A low-protein diet is recommended in this condition. The amount of protein to be taken is determined by the doctor or a dietitian. Salt intake as well as potassium, phosphorus, and other such electrolytes should be restricted. Diabetic patients have to limit the ingestion of carbohydrates. In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, there are no restrictions on fluid intake, but during later stages, fluid intake should be minimized.
Medicines and dietary changes work in the first four stages of chronic kidney disease. In case, the kidneys stop functioning completely, then patients have to undergo dialysis regularly for the removal of wastes. In more severe cases, where it leads to a life-threatening condition for the patient, doctors opt for kidney transplant.
Prevention of the chronic condition of the kidneys is possible, only with the help of a healthy lifestyle. It includes eating healthy foods, maintaining healthy body weight, limiting alcohol intake, and avoiding smoking. If you have any underlying disease, then treatment of that condition is extremely important in order to prevent any of its damaging effects on the kidneys.